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This article is written by Paridhi Dave, a student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University. The article discusses the procedure followed in summary trials under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.


The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is the law that governs procedural aspects. It provides a mechanism for conducting trials for the offences punishable under the substantive law, i.e, Indian Penal Code, 1860 and other criminal statutes. The word ‘trial’ has not been defined in the Code. 

The stage of a trial begins after the ‘framing of charges.’ The nature of a trial is determined on the basis of gravity and seriousness of the offence, jurisdiction and the substantive law applicable to it. The purpose of having different procedures of trial is speedy disposal of cases and thereby reducing the pendency of cases.

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Summary Trial

In the adversarial legal system, the parties are represented by their advocates before an impartial person, who attempts to determine the truth and pass judgment accordingly. 

The word ‘trial’ has not been defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 per se. According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, a trial is defined as a judicial examination according to the law of the land, over a cause which could be either civil or criminal before a court that has jurisdiction.

A Trial is a procedure where the Court adjudicates after hearing the case from both sides. It gives a fair opportunity to examine, re-examine and cross-examine the witnesses produced in the court. The judge delivers a judgment on the basis of the merits of the case. It is essential that the trial is fair, prudent and without any undue influence.

There are three kinds of trials primarily – warrant, summons and summary. Summary Trials are mentioned in Chapter XXI of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973. In this trial, the cases are disposed of speedily as the procedure is simplified and the recording of such cases are done summarily. 

In this type of trial, only the offences which fall into the small/petty category are tried. Complex cases are reserved for warrant or summons trial. To determine whether a case should be tried summarily, the facts stated in the complaint form the primary basis. The objective of summary trials is the expeditious disposal of cases to lessen the burden on the judiciary. The trial gives a fair opportunity to people for procuring justice in less time.

The legal provisions governing summary trials under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 are Section 260 to Section 265. 


The power to try a case summarily is laid down under Section 260 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The provision bestows power to any Chief Judicial Magistrate, Metropolitan Magistrate or Magistrate of the first class empowered by the High Court to try the following offences summarily:

  1. Offences which are not punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for more than two years.
  2. The offence of theft under Section 379, 380 or 381 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 if the value of the stolen property is not more than 2000 rupees.
  3. An offence where a person has received or retained a stolen property worth not more than 2000 rupees, under Section 411 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  4. An offence where a person has assisted in concealing or disposing of stolen property, not worth more than 2000 rupees, under Section 414 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  5. Offences covered under Section 454 and Section 456 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  6. If a person insults with the intention of provoking a breach of peace under Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  7. In the case of criminal intimidation punishable with imprisonment up to two years or fine or both, under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  8. The abetment of any of the above-mentioned offences 
  9. If an attempt is made to commit any of the aforementioned offences and if such an attempt is a punishable offence
  10. If an act is committed which constitutes an offence, for which a complaint can be filed under Section 20 of the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871

If the Magistrate feels at any point of the process of trial, that the nature of the case is not fit to be tried summarily then he has the power to recall any witness who may have been examined. After this, he can proceed for rehearing of the case, according to the procedure prescribed in this Code.

Summary trial by a Magistrate of second class

The Court of a Magistrate of second class is empowered under Section 29(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to pass a sentence of imprisonment for not more than one year or of a fine, not more than 5000 rupees, or both.

Under Section 261 of the Code, the High Court is vested with the power to confer upon the Magistrate of Second Class, the power to try an offence summarily. The offence should be punishable either solely with a fine or with imprisonment for not more than six months with/without fine. The scope extends to any abatement or attempts to commit any such abovementioned offence.


Under Section 262 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the procedure for summary trials has been laid down.

The procedure followed for summon cases has to be followed for summary cases as well. The exception in summary trials is, that a sentence exceeding the duration of three months cannot be passed in case of conviction under this Chapter.

The procedure for a summons case can be briefly stated as follows:

For a criminal procedure to begin, the first step is to file an FIR or a complaint. This is investigated upon by the police and evidence is collected. At the end of the investigation, a charge sheet is filed by the police. This is also called the pre-trial stage.

The accused person is then taken before the Magistrate who orally reads the particulars of the offences to the accused. In summons and summary trials, a formal charge is not written down.

The Magistrate after stating the particulars of the offence committed asks the accused if he pleads guilty or not. If the accused person pleads guilty, the Magistrate makes a record of the statement of the accused and then proceeds for conviction. 

If the accused does not plead guilty, the trial begins. The prosecution and the defence are given an equal opportunity to put their case forward. The Judge may then decide the acquittal or the conviction of the accused.

In summary cases, the difference lies at this juncture. If the Judge delivers a judgment of conviction of the accused – the maximum sentence that can be passed for imprisonment is three months.

Record in summary trials

The procedure to formulate a record in summary trials is laid down in Section 263 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

In all summary cases, the Magistrate has the duty to enter the following particulars, in the following format prescribed by the State Government:

  1. The serial number of the case;
  2. The date when the offence was committed;
  3. The date when the report or the complaint was filed;
  4. The name of the complainant, if any;
  5. The name, residence and parents’ name of the accused person;
  6. The offence about which the complaint has been made and any proven offence (if it exists);
  7. The value of the property regarding which the offence has been committed, if the case comes under Section 260(1) (ii) or Section 260(1) (iii) or Section 260(1) (iv) of the Code;
  8. The plea of the accused person and his examination, if any;
  9. The finding of the Court;
  10. The sentence or any other final order passed by the Court;
  11. The date when the proceedings ended.

Judgment in cases tried summarily

Section 264 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 lays down how a judgment should be in cases which are tried summarily.

The Magistrate has the duty to record the substance of the evidence along with a judgment containing a brief statement of the reasons for such finding, in all summarily tried cases where the accused does not plead guilty.

Under Section 326(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 the use of pre-recorded evidence by a successor judge is barred in the instance when the trial has to be conducted summarily, according to Section 262 to 265 of the Code.

In Shivaji Sampat Jagtap vs. Rajan Hiralal Arora, it was held by the Bombay High Court that if the procedure mentioned in Section 263 and Section 264 of the Code has not been particularly followed, then the succeeding Magistrate does not need to hold a trial de novo. In this case, the petitioner filed a complaint under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act,1881. The Magistrate issued the process, summons to the accused was served and consequently, his plea was recorded. But before the Magistrate could deliver the judgment, he ceased to have jurisdiction and was succeeded by another Magistrate.

The new Magistrate delivered a judgment on the basis of evidence which was recorded by his predecessor. An appeal was filed that the new Magistrate should have conducted a de novo trial as contemplated under Section 326(3) as the predecessor had conducted the case as a summary trial. As this was not done, it was contended that the entire proceeding was vitiated. The Sessions Court then quashed the conviction. Therefore, this revision application was filed. It was held by the Court that the present case was not tried summarily. It was, in fact, tried as a summons case. Therefore, the impugned judgment was quashed.

Language of record and judgment

The provision governing this heading is under Section 265 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

All the records and judgments are to be written in the language of the concerned Court. The High Court can bestow the power upon any Magistrate who is empowered to try offences summarily, to prepare the above-mentioned record or judgment or both. This can be done through an officer appointed for the purpose by the Chief Judicial Magistrate as well. Such record or judgment prepared has to be signed by the Magistrate.

Similarities and differences between summary trials and other trials


There are certain similarities in summary trials and regular trials. In all the trials, the evidence is collected, a record is maintained, charges are read over to the accused, the accused person is examined, a competent Magistrate conducts the proceedings and finally an order/judgment is delivered. Another common factor is that ‘illegality’ vitiates the entire trial, but ‘irregularity’ does not.


  1. Summary trials are less complicated in comparison to warrants and summons trials.
  2. The procedure followed in summary cases is shorter and less time consuming than other trials.
  3. Summary trials deal with cases that consist of minor offences of simple nature as opposed to serious cases which are tried in summons/warrant trials.
  4. The statements of witnesses are compiled in a brief and general manner in summary trials. Focus is placed on recording the substance of their depositions. In other trials, the depositions of all the witnesses are recorded with minute intricacy.
  5. The Magistrate does not have to frame formal charges against the accused person in summary trials. In other trials, a formal charge has to be written down.
  6. In the case of summary trials, it is not essential to record the evidence in its entirety. A brief outline works. In other trials, it is crucial that the entire evidence is recorded completely.


In India, there are two twin-laws which govern the criminal procedure followed in the country. The substantive law is covered by the Indian Penal Code, 1860 along with other criminal acts and the procedural law is covered by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The primary aim of any criminal justice system is to ensure that the citizens have the opportunity for a free and fair trial. It is well known that the pendency of cases is extremely high in India and the judiciary is overburdened. Trials take years to complete which is a continuous and tedious process. Therefore, it has been divided into three categories according to the gravity of the offences. Summary trials offer an opportunity to the citizens to get justice even for the smallest issues that they face. It maintains a balance by providing justice and not overburdening the higher court with petty offences. 



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